Sunday, November 8, 2015

It's the Most Frustrating Time of the Year

Yes, it is fall, so of course people have already decorated for Christmas. This probably wasn’t a problem with people used real greenery. The early-Christmas people used to bother me. OK, they still do. But this year I’ve found myself a little more understanding. What is wrong with decorating early? Well, for one, I live in an area that truly has all four seasons. The leaves are still turning orange and falling. I’ve just pulled out my jackets, and it’ll be another week before the sweaters and boots join them. Fall is a great season; it’s the season of crisp air and harvest. It’s the season of Thanksgiving. Why would people want to gloss over enjoying fall to its fullest? But to a greater reason, Christmas is a holy day, part of a liturgical calendar, with a full four weeks devoted to its preparation. There is no need to prepare for Christmas before Advent. To do so shows complete liturgical disregard.

But of course, for the most part, those that decorate early don’t know the liturgical calendar. Some Reformer tossed it out with stained glass and the books of Maccabees. To them, Christmas is still a holy day, but Advent isn’t a thing, and Christmas is over on December 26. And while I’m frustrated that these people don’t appreciate the full Christmas tradition, I can’t fault them for waiting to stretch Christmas out. Their desire to extend Christmas into fall is really a desire for the liturgical calendar. It’s an innate understanding that entire chunks of the year should be divided into religious foci. Without seasons of penances and feasts the secular world creates its own calendar. While I find it shallow and consumerist, there is a deeper human need being expressed. Society doesn’t wax and wane with the moons and harvests anymore, but it needs rises and falls in the year. We are not still water; we are a tide. 

So while it is entirely too early to see lights and hear carols, I will stay silent as people put up their plastic trees. They are reaching out for the rhythm of the calendar. People criticize the Church for adding superfluous things to the faith, but such things are not superfluous. They are aids to the faith. They are innate in us. They are primal expressions of how we relate to our world and our God. Advent is a necessary time to shift into a new liturgical year, to begin again, to clean house and prepare a stable, to cook, to pray, to wait, to hope. I know this will seem sanctimonious, but it is where I stand: I will try to no longer get angry and those who don’t know that. Instead, I will pray that they will be reconciled to their expressed desire for liturgy.

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